5 Tools (most) Healthy People Use Daily

Have you ever stopped to wonder how healthy people stay healthy? Amidst the rush and whir of activity in our lives, we are bombarded with so much activity and stimulation that it is hard to believe that people have the time to “Stay Healthy”.

First off, “Healthy” is a very subjective term. Many people define health as the absence of disease- but does that really give us much to shoot for? From a holistic standpoint, health is a combination of mental/emotional and physical well-being. This means that we are more than just without disease. We are functioning optimally. We have reserves for times of stress. We are able to roll with the punches without falling apart.

Many people may appear healthy and fit, but have diets that are not nutrient dense and have blood chemistry that reflects that. I have seen some very thin people with poor cholesterol or blood sugar. You cannot judge health by someone’s looks!

It is important to have tools in your toolbox that can help you to build up a reserve of health for when times are stressful!

  1. SLEEP- Did you know that sleep is incredibly important to your body’s functioning? According to this study from the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep to have optimum health? Many people allow sleep to take the back seat when they are feeling rushed, when that inevitably leads to decreased performance. Think back to a time when you pulled an “all nighter” and then tried to function the next day. Your reflexes and your mental function were impaired. If you miss enough sleep, you even decrease your immune system function.
  2. fruits-320136_1280EAT COLORFUL FOODS- (And not artificially colored foods) One of the easiest ways to improve your body’s nutrition is to eat a variety of fruits and veggies. Your plate should be colorful with peppers, radishes, beets, greens, and an assortment of fruits. The colors in plant foods correlate to some of their nutrients.
  3. TAKE TIME FOR QUIET- Many of us are constantly on the go and always have a device in hand like a computer or cell phone. This combination means that we are rarely in a quiet, peaceful state where we can be uninterrupted for even as few as 5 minutes. Whether you take this time to focus on breathing, meditation, journaling, or something else… it is important to slow your pace and just exist for awhile. (Even Good Housekeeping agrees!)
  4. marathon-1649905_1920EXERCISE REGULARLY- According to Nobel Prize Winner, Dr. Roger Sperry, “90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by movement of the spine.” When we exercise, we are moving our bodies and generating input for our brain, transmitting it through our nervous system. Chiropractors, like myself, see that when the spine is moving well, the brain communicates better with the body as in a manual muscle test. It makes sense that getting the body moving would feed our brains! Plus, exercise helps to produce anti-inflammatory neurochemicals and helps to improve mood!
  5. USE A PLANNER- Keeping organized, either in a paper planner or in your phone helps you to better manage your time. This can help tremendously with the amount of stress you perceive. By scheduling in things like exercise and quiet time, as well as grocery shopping and errands, it is easier to get a handle on what is already on your plate and if you can take on more.

Hopefully you got some tips or tools that you can immediately add to your daily routine. These are just some easy ways to improve your health by increasing your capacity. When you build a reservoir, your body can better handle periods of increased stress like deadlines, family emergencies, or the latest cold or flu.

Always remember to consult with your health care provider before making major lifestyle modifications. Changes in diet and exercise may need to be made under professional guidance. This blog is intended for general information purposes only.

What do you do to manage your health? Comment below!

How to Build a Birth Team

pregnant-422982_1920One of the most important parts of every pregnancy is its birth team. This group of people and professionals is a support system to provide education, answer questions, and  remove some of the stress from the time before conception, pregnancy, and the postpartum period. It is incredibly impactful to feel empowered and safe as you prepare to bring a child into the world.

A birth team looks different from family to family and depends greatly upon their individual needs, wants, and circumstances.

There are many possible components of a birth team- and they all play a vital and valuable role for families. To learn more about these professions, check out the sections below! Most of these headings are direct quotes from providers in the Puget Sound region. Their contact information is available at the end of each segment should you have additional questions about how they contribute to beautiful births.

Midwife versus OB/GYN

If you have landed here, you probably have already chosen your main birth provider. However, in case you are trying to decide whether to choose an OB/GYN, Nurse Midwife, or a Lay Midwife, check out this article (and this other one) to learn more about what the differences are between providers.

Chiropractor

“While many (in fact most) Chiropractors treat pregnant women, there are additional certifications in Webster Technique that allow Chiropractors to specialize and gain a deeper understanding of the unique changes the body undergoes while pregnant. As a Webster Prenatal Chiropractor, I work to create balance within the body as it adapts and changes in the stages of pregnancy and the months following birth.

IMG_0060Chiropractic techniques are adapted to gently and effectively work with the ligaments, bones, and muscles of the spine and pelvis. This helps to prevent or treat the aches and pains that are commonly associated with pregnancy from sciatica and low back pain to headaches as well as round ligament pain. Outside of this, when the body moves better throughout pregnancy, delivery is often shorter and less complicated.

The muscles and ligaments of the spine and pelvis are impacted by the changes in pregnancy. As the uterus grows, the muscles and ligaments that attach it to the pelvis and lumbar spine are likely to be directly impacted by the alignment of the pelvis. Unequal stresses through the ligaments and muscles of the pelvis can cause the uterus to undergo torque. This can contribute to malposition of the baby (Breech, Transverse, Occiput Posterior presentations, etc).

Remember: structure determines function. By balancing the pelvis, we enhance its function. According to the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, “when a mother’s spine is realigned to proper position, a symphony of physiological responses happens immediately in response to the uninterrupted communication between the central nervous system and the rest of the body.”

It’s no wonder that many women who are under chiropractic care throughout their pregnancies have shorter, easier labor and experience fewer complications as a result. According to one study, women under chiropractic care experienced 25% shorter labor in their first pregnancy and 31% shorter labor for multiple pregnancies[1]. Many birth providers now recommend Webster certified chiropractors as part of a birth team.

I encourage all pregnant women to see a Doctor of Chiropractic who is certified in Webster Technique throughout the perinatal period to ensure that her body is functioning optimally and providing the best home for baby, possible. You can find a Webster Certified Chiropractor via the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. “- Sharonrose Samelak, DC, Prenatal Chiropractor

Dr. Samelak has been Webster Certified with the ICPA since 2012 and has worked extensively with pregnant women, their families, and children. She currently practices in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, WA at Seed of Life Chiropractic and Wellness, LLC.

Sources:

[1]. Borggren, Cara L. “Pregnancy and Chiropractic: A Narrative Review of the Literature.” Journal of Chiropractic Medicine 6.2 (2007): 70-74. Web.

Doula

“To hire a doula or not? This is such a wonderful question that we’re so glad you’re thinking about. The word “doula” is greek for “women’s servant”. And when you’re facing the unknown of how your birth will go, it’s comforting to have someone there specifically for you as a woman as you are birthing your child.

IMG_71681_01While pregnant women are dealing with surging hormones and swollen feet, their partners are going through this journey as well. A doula can help a hands-on partner by providing them guidance and suggestions as they help with the pregnancy and birth. For those who wish to be more on the sidelines, a doula can step in. This allows not only the expecting mother to, hopefully, have the birth she envisions, but the partner as well.

A doula can help facilitate communication among all those involved, including between mother and medical caretakers or other family members. As the mother’s advocate, doulas work to ensure that her voice is heard during a vulnerable time — whether that’s clarifying a clinical procedure or articulating your wishes to surrounding family. Births with doulas resulted in lowering the cesarean rate by 50% and the length of labor by 25%, according to the Cochrane Review, Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth (reported by the American Pregnancy Association). While the causes could be a number of reasons (more relaxed, better techniques to progress the process) the end result: a shorter labor — who doesn’t like the sound of that?

Doulas range in prices, all the way from $500 – $2,000. It is important to find someone that meshes well with the birth story a family is planning. Ask good questions that help you get to know the doula. Calm and Confident Doula wrote a wonderful blog about 10 questions to ask a doula, this is a great tool to use to help you get to know your potential doula.” -Courtney Yorks, Doula

Courtney Yorks is a doula in the Seattle area. She attended her training at Bastyr in January of 2016 and since has attended every kind of birth you can imagine. She has pursued her passion for educating, advocating for, and empowering women in the perinatal time. She uses her passion for birth and extensive trainings to make your birth experience beautiful, unique, and safe. To learn more about Courtney, check out her website.

Fitness Expert

“Physiologically and holistically, the benefits of exercise during pregnancy are numerous for both mom and baby.  A sampling of these includes increased placental growth and function, less pregnancy related aches and pains, enhanced perception of quality of life for mom, increased ability to tolerate the physiological stresses of labor for both mom and baby as well as a decreased likelihood of pregnancy induced hypertension and gestational diabetes to name a few!

workout-1931107_1920

At Bodies for Birth, we help individuals to prepare their bodies both mentally and physically for the endurance event of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood!

Interval and strength training mimic the work of contractions as we prepare the mind to stay calm while the body is working physically hard.  Through this practice, individuals learn and practice coping skills that translate beautifully during labor and delivery.

Physical strength, endurance and flexibility develop with consistency.  Individuals learn to work with and trust their ever evolving bodies.  Taken together, these components help to promote empowering birth experiences!”- Maura Shirley, RN, Owner of Bodies for Birth

Maura Shirey is the Owner & Creator of Bodies for Birth. During pregnancy and motherhood, it became clear that I needed to fuse my varied professional experiences with my passion for wellness to do something wonderful for pregnant and postpartum individuals. Bodies for Birth was created from this passion. Ever since, I have been on a mission to change the conversation about exercise during the perinatal time…and truly, I like to think I’m creating and leading a birth and fitness revolution! I watch individuals gain physical and mental strength, I watch them tackle the unexpected with resilience and grace. My work allows me the gift to bear witness throughout this evolution and I am forever grateful.

Women’s Health PT

“Women’s Health Physical Therapy is a sub-specialty of PT focused on treating women’s specific health concerns. These include pelvic health complaints such as pelvic pain and urinary incontinence, and pregnancy and post-partum conditions.

A Women’s Health PT can help with a number of things during pregnancy. These include: designing a safe exercise routine, addressing pelvic pain including pubic symphysis dysfunction, and SI joint pain, helping minimize risk for diastasis recti, and addressing pelvic floor conditions like urinary incontinence and tight pelvic floor muscle concerns.

pregnant-1438139_1920A Women’s Health PT will often see women early in their pregnancies to help them figure out safe exercise routines and deal with chronic back and knee or hip conditions that might impede labor. Later in pregnancy they will usually treat low back, hip, and SI joint pain, and urinary incontinence concerns. Women’s Health PTs also help women get their baby into an ideal position for labor and use biofeedback to determine positions of most relaxation that might be helpful for the pushing phase of labor.

Women’s Health PTs provide education regarding pelvic floor care post partum to assist with healing and will often see women post partum to help with abdominal and pelvic floor muscle healing and strengthening as well.

Insurance will cover all of Women’s Health PT services.”

Aimee Lake, DPT is a Women’s Health PT at Greenwood Physical Therapy. Her original PT background is in general orthopedics and she takes that holistic approach in her work as a Women’s Health PT. Because of that her treatment philosophy is to treat the pelvic region as an integrated part of a women’s whole body. Aimee says, “As an active woman and a mom I know the physical challenges of pregnancy and the post partum period. I work hard to make my treatments efficient and not overwhelming. I keep my home exercises to a minimum and work to provide a hopeful atmosphere for women to feel successful in.”

Massage Therapist

“Although any Licensed Massage Practitioner can perform pregnancy massage, it is highly recommended that they seek out a Certified Prenatal Massage therapist who has advanced training in the intricacies of a pregnant body.
The benefits of massage during pregnancy are extensive.  Along with creating a better physical and emotional balance for the pregnant person, it helps creates a more peaceful and healthy environment for the growing baby.  The advantages are both in physical form – relaxation of muscles, easing of pain from changing body, assistance for rest and sleep and emotional – help with hormonal changes, peace of mind, etc.
massage-486700_1920The pregnant person can expect to be situated on a massage table in a manner that is safe for the pregnant body.  For first babies, the first trimester still allows lying face down on the table and on the back.  As the pregnancy progresses, it is no longer safe – so adjusting the body safely is key.  It is recommended that the practitioner perform the massage in a side-lying position, and then have either a table to allow a reclining position on the back or appropriate bolsters.

Pregnancy massage is safe in any increment.  However, it is highly recommended and beneficial to get a massage at least once a month during pregnancy.  With a trained prenatal massage therapist, first trimester massage is safe (if no other risks are apparent) and massage is great until due date and beyond!

Generally, insurance companies that already cover massage will cover massage during pregnancy.” – Robin Moberly, Licensed Massage Therapist and Birth Doula
Robin Moberly is a premier massage therapist located in the Smokey Point neighborhood of Arlington, WA. Robin is in private practice offering relaxation and therapeutic massage, with a special focus on prenatal and postpartum massage. Robin is a Certified Pregnancy Massage therapist and a Birth Doula with the North Sound Birth Collective.

Lactation Consultant

Breastfeeding support is essential for new moms and it often helps to know your resources ahead of time. Many hospitals provide nursing support and many communities have a La Leche League which can be great support systems for parents. However, there is also an alphabet soup of other types of lactation professionals.

baby-21167_1920“IBCLCs (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) are by far the most advanced lactation professionals, and the only certification that requires hundreds of hands-on clinical hours. IBCLCs must pass an internally standardized exam,  take health science courses, lactation education, and clinical hours. This education generally takes 2-5 years.

Non-IBCLC lactation professionals can provide amazing, vital lactation support, but in  cases where there are moderate to severe health concerns or issues that do not resolve quickly, should be attended by an IBCLC. Other lactation credentials include CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor), CLS (Certified Lactation Specialist), CBS (Certified Breastfeeding Specialist), CLE (Certified Lactation Educator), and LS (Lactation Specialist).”- Adeline Hill, CBS

Adeline Hill is a Certified Breastfeeding Specialist and Doula with Black Rose Doula. She serves the Greater Seattle Community.

Childbirth Educator

“In this age of information overload, it seems like anything that anyone might ever want to know about everything is as close as a few taps on your smartphone or tablet. Despite this plethora of instant information, there is still something special about taking an in-person childbirth education class. It seems like life has never been busier, more hectic and fast-paced.  Being a new parent is all about slowing down and living in the moment, at least for the first days and weeks of welcoming a new baby as the family transitions and recovers. Quality childbirth classes can help start that process of being in the moment, taking things in and learning about making choices that feel good to the expectant family, as well as preparing them for the labor and birth experience, the postpartum time and care of the newborn.

Adding a childbirth class to your “birth team”

Preparing to give birth requires a lot of flexibility, as does parenting. Learning about the process, creating community with others who are going through similar experiences and increasing the confidence in both your ability to give birth and in your partner’s ability to support you with comfort and coping measures can all add to a positive experience for you and start you off on the right foot for this new adventure called parenting.

Having some familiarity with the process and learning about the choices you can make during your labor and birth can help you to decrease your fear and nervousness and increase your sense of excitement and ability to cope. When you take a childbirth class, you should be given lots of opportunities to practice comfort and coping techniques to use in labor.  You also can learn about the options available to you for pain relief, variations in labor and birth and planning for the unexpected.  Many friends and family are happy to share their own experiences, but your journey is your own, and it is nice to haven a safe, nonjudgmental space to absorb information with your partner or support person, where no one is telling you what they did or what you should do.  While your birth class instructor will not be with you on the big day, what you learned and discovered during classes will be accessible to you as you move through your birth experience, so adding a good childbirth class to your birth team can help create a very positive experience.MEC-teaching-1

What should you look for in a quality childbirth class program

There are lots of options for childbirth classes in our community.  It can be overwhelming to select what might be a good fit.  As someone who has been teaching childbirth classes for almost 14 years, I would like to offer up a few suggestions:

Look for an independent class offering versus one that is offered through the hospital and taught by hospital employees.  An independent class will consist of people birthing in many locations and it will benefit you to hear about other class participants’ experiences and options.  Independent instructors often have more flexibility to share information about best practice, beyond what is strictly specific hospital protocol.

Try and take a series class versus a one day option.  I am often told from families who opt into the ‘one day and done’ model that the entire class is pretty brain dead come 2 PM, even though class went on for another few hours.  It is hard to stay focused and take in information when you are asked to do it for eight hours straight. Enrolling in a class that is spaced out weekly can really help you and your partner to absorb information, discuss things in between classes and build community with the other class members.  The pace feels so much more comfortable and builds confidence in your skills.  You are also provided so much more information – as there is so much more time.  My 17.5 hour seven week series class offers lots of engaging activities and information compared to an eight hour class, which is really about 6 hours when you subtract lunch and breaks.

Look for a childbirth class that is taught by a certified childbirth educator – Lamaze and ICEA are two of the major national certifying organizations.  In order to maintain their credentials, certified educators are required to demonstrate continuing education hours in topics related to maternal-infant health.  It is a nice to know that your educator is current on best practice and evidenced based care.

A quality childbirth class will also –

    • Limit the number of families to ten or less so the class is not too crowded, and you have lots of chances to ask questions and have manageable class discussions
    • Offer variety of teaching activities that are engaging and hands on, with lots of opportunity for actual practice
    • Limit or restrict the use of Powerpoint presentations – to quote a friend of mine, Teri Shilling, “the person who is doing the most talking is doing the most learning.”
    • Be welcoming to all family structures and value diversity in the class members
    • Present impartial information that helps you to decide what are the right decisions for you, versus informing the class about the “right” way to birth and not leaving room for you to choose what feels best for you.
    • Include adequate information on breastfeeding, newborns and the postpartum period

Health insurance plans do not often cover childbirth classes, but if your family has access to a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA), most people are able to use those funds to pay for their childbirth classes.  If you are receiving Applecare from the state of Washington, childbirth classes are covered and their class coupons are accepted by some class programs.  Many programs are committed to offering classes to all, so do inquire about your options for financial assistance.

Choosing just the right program for you

Some people view childbirth as a spiritual journey, others are more of the “squat and get it done” type.  Some expecting families like lots of information on all topics and find comfort in lots of research and evidence, others prefer to learn about select items.  Some people know already exactly the type of birth they hope for and others want to learn more before narrowing down their options.  Everyone wants a healthy baby, a healthy parent and a healthy birth.

Choose a childbirth program that seems to resonate with how you view birth and early parenting.  Select a class that will meet the needs of your particular interests and style.  Ask others who have taken classes locally about their experiences and places to seek out or avoid.  Call the organization or instructor to get a sense of what you are in for.  Ask how much time is spent practicing skills and doing hands on activities versus sitting and listening.  This information should be readily available.  In the end, just like with labor, birth and parenting, go with your instincts and what feels right for you.  Allow yourself to be present with your partner or support team taking in information and building community with others in the class.  It is a chance to slow life down for a few hours and really connect with your baby as you prepare for birth.”- Sharon Muza, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE

Sharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA) BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE has been an active childbirth professional since 2004, teaching Lamaze classes and providing doula services to over a thousand families through her private practice in Seattle, Washington. Sharon is a Birth Doula Trainer at the Simkin Center, Bastyr University. She is also a trainer with Passion for Birth, a Lamaze-Accredited Childbirth Educator Program. Sharon is a consulting instructor at Great Starts, Parent Trust for Washington Children. She also teaches classes at the Seattle Indian Health Board. To learn more about Sharon, you are invited to visit her website, SharonMuza.com.

Acupuncturist

“Acupuncture/Chinese medicine is great for many things, but women’s health is one of its particular strengths. An acupuncturist can help to treat issues that arise during pregnancy and can also help prevent problems from developing. An acupuncturist can also be a wonderful resource when women are trying to get pregnant or working with any fertility challenges.
It is common to see women in the first trimester for issues such as morning sickness and helping to support the pregnancy and prevent miscarriage. This can also be a time where calming and anxiety-relieving treatments are helpful. In the second trimester, it is common to treat issues such as constipation, heartburn, dizziness, headaches, and various aches and pains. In the third trimester, it is common to see patients for issues such as breech presentation, edema, and preparation for labor.

acupuncture-1698832_1920An acupuncturist is an important part of a woman’s birth team as it can be very helpful to see one in the last weeks of pregnancy to help prepare the body for birth. I generally recommend coming in weekly starting 36 weeks, and then twice weekly starting 39 weeks. Acupuncture can be used to help soften the cervix once a woman is full-term, and to help prepare and open the body for birth. Acupuncture can also be helpful for many of the aches, pains, and other discomforts of late-pregnancy.

Chinese herbal medicine is also extremely helpful in postpartum recovery, and an acupuncturist trained in the use of these herbs can prescribe Chinese herbs to be used postpartum to help nourish and replenish the woman’s body. There is a well-known Chinese herbal formula that is often prescribe in the first week postpartum. There are also Chinese herbal formulas that can be used postpartum for things such as low milk supply, postpartum depression, and for overall nourishing of the body. In addition to acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine being useful for the new mother as she recovers from childbirth, it can also be a wonderful resource for babies and children. I will often use simple acupressure for babies for issues such as gas and constipation, and use pediatric Chinese herbal formulas for issues such as pain from teething, or chronic ear pain in young children.

I generally recommend coming in weekly starting 34 to 36 weeks to help start preparing the body for labor.
A woman coming in for acupuncture at the end of pregnancy can expect to have a relaxing treatment and she may even take a nap on the massage table, lying on her side, with some acupuncture needles gently inserted (often not more than 10 needles).  Most women find this to be quite relaxing, and the needles often provide a euphoric effect and a sense of the body relaxing and opening. Sometimes not much sensation is felt where the needles are inserted, and sometimes there is a dull achy feeling or a feeling of heaviness at an acupuncture point–all of which are normal.
Many health insurance companies cover acupuncture, and cover pregnancy-related conditions such as nausea due to morning sickness and various types of pain that can arise during pregnancy. Many plans cover out of network providers as well, and HSA/FSAs can also be used to pay for acupuncture.
A consult, or phone call, with a licensed practitioner is the best way to see if acupuncture is right for you. In my experience, most pregnant women can benefit from seeing an acupuncturist!”- Samara White
Samara White’s practice, Counterpoint Wellness, is based in Fremont, Seattle. Samara specializes in treating people working with issues related to fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, and pediatrics/infant care. She is a licensed acupuncturist, with a Master’s degree in Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine from the Seattle Institute of Oriental Medicine, and is licensed in both WA & CA, as well as board certified in Oriental Medicine by the NCCAOM . Samara is also a licensed massage therapist, specializing in craniosacral therapy, with certification through the Milne Institute, and additional training including pediatric and infant care. 

Prenatal Yoga

“Prenatal Yoga is one of the best activities that pregnant women can do for the well-being of mother and baby. What differentiates yoga from other forms of exercise is the connection to the breath. Yoga breathing is different from other breathing practices.

Birth is very physical as well as mental, emotional and spiritual. Yoga helps us to connect to all aspects of our humanness. In western medical science, we are beginning to realize how the mind affects the body. Knowing your state of mind and learning not to attach yourself to it allows the body to do what it needs to do.

Practicing yoga postures can help a pregnant woman alleviate many of the common discomforts of pregnancy like sciatica, restless legs, heartburn, nausea, low back pain, pelvic pain, sacro-iliac joint dysfunction, neck and shoulder pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and more. Yoga poses also strengthen the body, while developing endurance without strain.yoga-2176668_1920

One type of breathing is Ujjayi, or “victory breathing.” It is simple to learn and easy to do. The sound of the breath helps the mind to focus on one point (one-pointed mindfulness), which helps you to be in the present. It also balances energy and can help you to access and move your energy. Ujjayi, along with yoga postures can help to free this energy.

How is prenatal yoga different from other yoga classes? The focus is completely on mother and baby. There are women in all stages of pregnancy, from 6 weeks gestation to 42 weeks. Women learn about pregnancy, labor and birth in the classes. And prenatal yoga classes are SAFE. Her body is changing. Prenatal yoga addresses these changes.

What are the benefits of prenatal yoga? Whether preparing for pregnancy, or in your first to third trimester, our classes are safe and gentle for everyone.  No previous yoga experience needed.  Prenatal yoga helps you manage the discomforts of pregnancy, while maintaining wellness, and preparing you for birth.  You will build strength and flexibility as your body and baby grow, but more importantly, our classes will help you connect your body and mind, and create space in your consciousness for your pregnancy and journey into motherhood.

Pregnancy  is a short time in our lives when looking at the big picture. I believe that taking this time to embrace your changing body and growing baby can better help to prepare you for birth and motherhood. It’s a time to really nourish yourself on all levels, physically, emotionally and spiritually, and this will help you be healthy and vibrant in your later years.”-Colette Crawford, RN, BSN, E-RYT

Colette Crawford is an experienced registered nurse specializing in maternal/child health, labor and delivery and childbirth education at Seattle Holistic Center.  She says, “The inspiration for the prenatal yoga program came from my public health nursing days when I wove yoga poses in with childbirth education for women who were hospitalized. I have assisted hundreds of women in labor and early postpartum care, including being a lactation specialist. Since 1989 I have taught prenatal yoga to thousands of women, their families and yoga teachers from all over the world.”

Perinatal Emotional Health/Mental Health Services

“Self care is hugely important during and after pregnancy. Research shows that too much stress during pregnancy can result in exposing the fetus to high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. High levels of stress during pregnancy can result in premature labor and lower birth weight. Additionally, research indicates that chronic stress during pregnancy could also result in subtle differences in brain development which could lead to behavioral problems later. [1]

mental-health-2019924_1920Expecting mothers who have a history of anxiety or depression, or who are concerned that they may not be managing their stress should consult with a psychotherapist that specializes in pre- and/or postnatal maternal mental health. These therapists have been trained in supporting women (and men!) during this particularly stressful time.

Therapy focuses on managing stress, increasing self-care, and alleviating any symptoms of anxiety or depression. Psychotherapy can also include partners to expand your network of support people.“- Shanna Donhauser, BA, LAICSW, MHP, CMHP

Shanna is the owner of Happy Nest. Happy Nest provides emotional/developmental support and counseling to small children and their families. Happy Nest also provides pre- and postnatal psychotherapy to expecting parents. For more information please visit www.happynesttherapy.com or call 360-813-8587.

[1] Watson, S. (2013). Can Your Stress Affect Your Fetus? Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/baby/features/stress-marks#1.

Postpartum Emotional Support

The postpartum period can also be a pivotal time to speak with a mental health provider.

“Many new moms can get what is called the baby blues, which can be very common among new moms. Baby blues usually improves or resolves in two to three weeks. Something more serious may be going on if you have any of these symptoms below and they do not seem to be improving:
woman-1148923_1920-Feeling overwhelmed and worried all the time
-Feeling like you can’t handle being a new mom and doubting your abilities to be a mother
-You are unable to turn these thoughts off about yourself or your baby
-Feeling despair and hopelessness
-Crying and tearfulness
-Anger and irritability
-Shortness of breath
-Suicidal or homicidal thoughts
-Feelings of guild and shame i.e.-You worry that your baby can tell that that you are not feeling connected to them or that you should be handling motherhood better than this.
-Feeling agitated, restless  or fearful
A mental health counselor can offer support and and a safe space for a new mom to express any of her thoughts or feelings about becoming a new mom. Working on self care measures can be a key component for a new mom. It can be very hard to remember to take care of yourself as a new mom. Also, if a mom is really struggling and unable to keep herself or her baby safe, a counselor can help link a new mom to resources for medication management or psychiatric services as needed.” Christie L Messina, MA, LMHC
Christie L Messina, MA, LMHC is a therapist specializing in the postpartum period with  In Step Counseling.  Christie is passionate about working with women struggling with perinatal mood disorders, pregnancy loss, birth trauma and infertility, as well as new parents struggling to find that balance in their life and relationship after baby arrives. She has been a practicing mental health counselor for over 16 years- the past 12 years in Washington state.
 prenatal-chiropractic-patient

Who’s On Your Birth Team?

Thank you to all of our contributors on this blog!

We hope that this compilation helped you to learn more about different birth providers. As a community, we are dedicated to helping women achieve healthy childbirth. We would love to hear about the members of your birth team and your experiences! If you would like to share, please feel free to use the comment section, below.

Essentialism

Did you miss our book club meeting?

Are you  interested in learning more about living a simpler life?

Did you, perhaps, start by cleaning out your home with Marie Kondo?

It is time to pick up Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less walks the reader through the thought process of an Essentialist. Through a deliberate evaluation of our circumstances, decisions, or commitments, it is possible for us to streamline our lives.

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This really made me consider the areas in my life where I feel most stressed out or out of control. Maybe it’s work where you are committed to so many projects that you can’t possibly do any of them well. Maybe it’s at home in your relationships with family- boundaries with family and close friends can be difficult to maintain. I know that there are times in my life where I have set aside important commitments to help a friend or family member only to feel that they have taken advantage of my time when it was all over.

What would happen if you simply stopped saying yes?

How would your life change if you chose to stay within your own limits instead of always feeling stretched?

These are the questions that an Essentialists ask themselves on a regular basis. It is not possible to only sort of commit to this behavior. Then, you will only sort of see results.

I, personally, am planning on beginning to implement Essentialist analysis into my lifestyle a little bit at a time. One thing I have committed to is to schedule space in my planner for reflection, journaling, and meditation. These are activities that, I know, make a large difference in my life. When I take space to reflect, I feel spacious in my mind and am both happier and more productive. Yet, when life gets busy, this is often the first activity that I strike from my list.

Slide2

The quote above makes this even more plain. Living deliberately is the fore of Essentialism. When we take a step back, systematically analyze, choose the priority, and know that everything else will work out, we can truly step into a space of elegant simplicity. There is time to think, to look/listen, play, and sleep- if only we are selective in our decision making.

For many years, I have noticed that sleep deprivation is incredibly harmful to my health and my emotions. Sleep has slowly become a priority in my life. Each night, I ensure that I get, minimally, 7.5 hours- though 9 is ideal. If I get less sleep than that more than a couple of days in a row, I feel physically tired, mentally sluggish, and I often get sick with an opportunistic cold or flu.

Play is equally important. There must be space in our lives to play with our loved ones, to engage with ourselves, and to laugh. This feeds the soul and sparks creativity. What games make you happy? Who do you play with? When was the last time you laughed so hard that your belly hurt and you couldn’t breathe?

Slide3

It all boils down to focused decision-making. In all areas of life, McKeown provides examples of how when we reflect and focus, clarity is achieved. This is incredibly conducive to prioritizing our lives and choosing the things with which we engage.

I truly loved this book and connected with it deeply. I highly recommend it as a quick read with incredible depth of meaning. I know that implementing Essentialism into my everyday will streamline my life and maximize its joy.

Did you enjoy Essentialism?

Is there something you would like to see us read in our Book Club?

Tell us in the comments below!

New Baby Neck

baby-21249_1920Babies are adorable.

They come into this world and hypnotize us with their steady, wide eyed gazes, their little sighs of satisfaction, and that new baby smell. We love to hold them. We love to snuggle them close. And we watch them as they sleep in our arms. It is utterly peaceful… until we try and turn our heads later in the day.

Enter: New Baby Neck.

Many parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles suffer from this condition as soon as a new addition is made to the family. The anterior head carriage involved in gazing adoringly at babies causes an intense strain in the cervical spine (neck).

baby-21167_1920This is especially prominent in nursing mothers. While breastfeeding in a seated position, many women find their head pulled forward as they watch their child nurse. There are many positions for nursing and any certified lactation specialist can help you to determine which is best for you!

The facts behind forward head posture (FHP) have been very well documented in research over the past few decades. The following facts were taken from an article in Dynamic Chiropractic:

  • For every inch of forward head posture, it can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds.” (Kapandji, Physiology of the Joints, Volume 3)
  • According to Rene Cailliet MD, director of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Southern California, forward head posture can add up to 30 pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine. This can pull the entire spine out of alignment. FHP results in loss of vital capacity of the lungs by as much as 30 percent. This shortness of breath can lead to heart and blood vascular disease. The entire gastrointestinal system is affected; particularly the large intestine. Loss of good bowel peristaltic function and evacuation is a common effect of FHP. It causes an increase in discomfort and pain because proprioceptive signals from the first four cervical vertebrae are a major source of the stimuli which create the body’s pain controlling chemicals (endorphins). With inadequate endorphin production, many otherwise non-painful sensations are experienced as pain. FHP dramatically reduces endorphin production.
  • FHP has been shown to flatten the normal neck curve, resulting in disc compression, damage and early arthritis. (Roentgenographic findings of the cervical spine in asymptomatic people. (Spine, 1986;6:591-694)

baby-1866621_1920The good news is this: There are tools that can be used to combat New Baby Neck.

Chiropractors have been working with the biomechanics in the cervical spine for over one hundred years. Maintaining healthy motion in the upper mid back as well as the neck can help to relieve the symptoms of New Baby Neck. This works best, however, when coupled with restorative exercises.

Cervical Extension exercises utilize an appliance to allow gravity to restore the curvature in the neck and improve biomechanics.

Head-Neck Retraction exercises help to bring the ear back into line with the tip of the shoulder which removes a lot of stress from the muscles of the posterior cervical spine.

Scapular Retraction and Shoulder Stabilizing exercises can be used to open up the shoulder girdle and improve respiration.

There are many more!

It is always important, though, to have a movement specialist such as a Doctor of Chiropractic or Physical Therapist evaluate your individual circumstances before applying home care exercises. Through careful examination, Chiropractors assess the biomechanics of the spine before choosing appropriate exercises to enhance function. We may even teach  you to modify other behaviors such as lifting and carrying children to further protect your spine!

Whether you are suffering from New Baby Neck, work at a computer all day, or spend a lot of time on a tablet or cell phone, it is important to take care of your cervical spine. To schedule a consultation to talk with Dr. Samelak about your neck or shoulder pain, please use the contact form below!

 

Are Flip Flops Causing Your Headaches?

It’s that time of year again! The trees are blooming, the sun is starting to make an appearance, and so is our summer footwear. This means flip flops are about to make a comeback.

flip-flops-1479699_1920One of the things that I often see rearing its ugly head with the arrival of flip flops is headaches. People who have no trouble with headaches throughout the winter and early spring suddenly get terrible headaches as soon as they don their favorite bejeweled footwear.

But what do flip flops have to do with headache?

Our bodies are amazingly interwoven and connected. Our bones are connected by ligaments. Our muscles connect to our bones to move them. Nerves and arteries form a complex system that travels around our bodies. And all of it is tied together in fascia.

Fascia is a specialized system of the body that has an appearance similar to a spider’s web or a sweater. Fascia is very densely woven, covering and interpenetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as, all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. The most interesting aspect of the fascial system is that it is not just a system of separate coverings. It is actually one continuous structure that exists from head to toe without interruption. In this way you can begin to see that each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like the yarn in a sweater. (https://www.myofascialrelease.com/about/fascia-definition.aspx)

Once we can understand that everything in our bodies is connected to everything else, it is possible to start seeing more patterns and relationships. The book, Anatomy Trains, has broken down this system of fascia into relationships or “trains/chains” that influence our body in a myriad of ways that can cause far-reaching results. Like headaches from flip flops!

headache-1910644_1280

The Posterior Chain of fascia connects the bottoms of our feet, up through the backs of our ankles and legs, along the spine, and over the top of the head.  When we wear flip flops, we generally scrunch up our toes to keep our shoes on our feet. This causes shortening and tightening of the fascia on the bottoms of our feet. Combine that with the shortening that happens from sitting at a desk for long hours and all of a sudden that posterior chain has a dramatic increase in tension. This pulls at the base of the skull and can result in severe tension headaches.

What can we do about it?!

I, personally, try and avoid flip flops in favor of sandals that have more support or require less “toe scrunching” to walk- Birkenstocks are my favorite. However, on the occasions when I do wear flip flops, it is essential to address the posterior chain. Generally, going through a yoga routine like a sun salutation can help to regulate the tension running down the spine and into the feet.

What is most important, though, is to recognize that if a few hours in flip flops causes severe headaches, it is probably time to have a movement specialist like a Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, Personal Trainer, etc. evaluate your biomechanics. This can be a sign that you have underlying imbalances in your muscles and fascia that can lead to future issues if they are not addressed. Understanding the balance within your body (and its imbalances) allows you to make educated choices regarding your physical health and function.

So if your flip flops lead to headaches, please get your body checked and assessed for correction. Headaches are not a sign of ibuprofen deficiency, but of an underlying issue. This blog discusses only one of hundreds of possible causes- it is important to speak with a healthcare professional about your individual circumstances and seek appropriate care.

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

… One Bite at a Time!

This blog was inspired by my Motivation Monday post on Facebook.

I have been thinking a lot about achieving goals in fitness, life, work, etc… and they really all have a common theme. Many times the goals that I achieve are those that I have approached logically, with mindfulness, and in a task oriented fashion. Without this, these goals would seem like elephants, huge and immovable.

elephant-2011392_1920

When it comes to health, most people have huge, vague goals that are kind of amorphous. These seem to be extremely difficult to attain because they are ill-defined. Many people start with the generic, “This year, I am going to get healthier.”

What a fantastic statement! By using this as a springboard, we can delve deeper, make a plan, and actually achieve “healthier”. However, if this single statement is the goal, how will we mindmap-2123973_1920know if it has been attained?

Let’s break it down.

What is “healthier”?

  • Is it a goal weight?
  • Is it a fitness goal like a marathon or a Strongfirst certification?
  • Is it fewer illnesses through the year?
  • Is it less back pain?
  • Is it being able to play with your grandchildren?
  • The list goes on!!!

Since a marathon in 2017 is my goal, I will use that as my example in this scenario.

Define the goal: A marathon is a 26.2 mile race. marathon-1649905_1920

What will it take to achieve the goal?

  • Commitment to a training schedule
  • Several smaller races
  • Having a support group
  • Self-Care to ensure that you maintain health while training
  • etc.

Action Steps:

  • I have made monthly goals for miles run weekly and/or cumulatively
  • I have started running with a running group that meets several times a week
  • I have a training partner in my husband who also wants to run a marathon with meTraining Photo
  • I have signed up for a 12K in 2 weeks (7.4 miles)
  • I have plans for a half-marathon in late May
  • I am taking care of myself physically
    • Sleeping 7-8 hours each night
    • Limiting sugar and alcohol in my diet
    • Ensuring that I am eating enough protein and vegetables that are responsibly sourced
    • Getting adjusted by another Chiropractor (see my other blog on this topic)
    • Participating in “prehab” exercises to help prevent injury during training
    • Drinking plenty of water on a daily basis!

Since high school, I have wanted to run a marathon… but I always thought it was too big, too much, an elephant you could say.

Moving to Seattle and deciding to take a logical approach to goal setting and improving my health has made what seemed like a pipe dream, a reality. Along with the encouragement of my husband and new friends, this long time goal is becoming a reality.

What goals have you been avoiding because they are too big or scary? Maybe you can approach them using this type of break-down.

If your goals are health-related, consult your Chiropractor and/or Primary Physician to ensure that you are taking care of your body in the process. I am always happy to help others achieve their health goals. Please feel free to contact me using the form below if you would like to schedule a consult!

Spring into Health

Spring is a great time to start making healthy choices for your life.

IMG_9935As the sun is a bit warmer, the grass a little greener, and the flowers are blooming, we start to come out of our own hibernation. We stretch out the kinks in our muscles, sometimes notice a few new aches in our bones, and set about the business of re-engaging with ourselves and the outside.

Now is a time to listen to our bodies and take the time to ensure that they are ready for a new activity level. It is the time to assess our nutrition and consider what we need to do to properly fuel our bodies, as well.

It is really easy to get carried away with the sunshine and end up with an easily SR bikepreventable injury. Remember that our bodies are incredibly intricate machines. You check out your bicycle and oil the chain before riding it after it has been in the garage for awhile… why not give your body the same courtesy. Getting checked by a Chiropractor can help to prevent injuries in addition to helping to manage old problems.

So, if you are feeling creaky as you stretch out those joints and start to turn over your garden, contact us in the form below and schedule your evaluation with Dr. Samelak. Start off this spring with a new bounce in your step and the support of a Doctor of Chiropractic.

Magic 8’s

The human brain is divided into 2 hemispheres that must work together for us to function and work productively in our environment.

brain-2062057_1920

The right side of the brain is most commonly associated with our innate artistic ability and our connection with non-linear thinking. The left side of the brain helps us to be analytical and think in a linear fashion- from point A to B. Many people have one side that is more dominant than others, but we are most well-rounded when the two sides work together cooperatively.

Enter: The Figure 8.

Drawing a figure 8 or doing cross patterning forces the two brain hemispheres to coordinate and work together.

number-709520_1920

In times when you are stressed, having a hard time focusing, are frustrated when test taking, etc. it is important to take a step back, breathe deeply, and integrate the hemispheres of the brain.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to simply draw a figure 8 with your fingertip on whatever surface is nearby- your steering wheel or thigh is perfectly acceptable. When you draw a figure 8 without picking up the pencil, you are coordinating your brain.

If possible, though, it is great to do a full body cross brain activity. This can be done through cross crawl marching, slapping the opposite knee as described below.

Stand tall and with soft knees, lengthening through your spine. With arms stretched outward, march, and bring your hand across your body to tap the opposite knee. In this way, the right hand taps the left knee. Some people find that this is very hard to coordinate and need to tap the same-side knee 2 or 3 times  before moving to the cross patterning.

Many times, people note increased mental clarity and even improved physical coordination following these activities. I first heard about this when researching study and test-taking skills while in Chiropractic school and it made a significant difference in my test anxiety and study productivity. I implemented it in anatomy tutoring and now, I often have patients perform the cross crawl marching after an adjustment to help sync their body and brain while the nervous system is firing .

girl-1345800_1920

There are many more iterations of this concept that are geared at right brain-left brain coordination. If you would like an individual assessment, please contact me!

10 Step Fix to a Better Morning Routine

 

Prep the night before

Feel more prepared for your day by picking out your clothes, reviewing your schedule, and prepping lunch and snacks the night before.

sandwich-1580353_1920.jpgSometimes getting dressed is an ordeal. When work doesn’t come with a uniform, it is a good idea to choose your outfit (or maybe a second choice) the night before. Knowing my wardrobe is taken care of and that I won’t end up wearing 2 different shoes because I am running late always helps me sleep more peacefully.

Reviewing your personal schedule and your family’s schedule helps to make sure that you have everything you need and that there will be no last minute surprises.

Prepping food the night before helps us to make better choices. When rushed in the morning, sometimes we choose things that are easy, pre-packaged, or just decide to eat out. By choosing to make our food as part of evening kitchen clean up, it is easier to make healthy snacks and lunches.

Control your evening to help keep chaos out of your morning! Once you integrate these into your evening routine, you will not be able to imagine going to bed without these things done!

 

Leave your phone OUT of your bedroom

This may sound like it would not make a huge impact, but ask yourself these questions:

Cellphone in bedDo I use my cell phone in the 30 minutes before bed?

Do I check my phone for messages/alerts in the middle of the night?

Do I check my email/Facebook before getting out of bed in the morning?

Do I sleep with my phone IN my bed?

If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, you are probably addicted to your cell phone. Each of these questions targets an area of your health.

If you use your cell phone  before bed or during the night, the type of  blue light that it emits reduces melatonin production, the hormone that helps you sleep.

If you are checking your email or Facebook before even getting out of bed, you are not taking space and time for yourself and allowing yourself to fully wake up in the morning before you permit stress to enter your life. Work stress, in particular is pervasive and we allow it to invade our lives outside of office time. Did you know that in France  a law allows workers to refrain from checking work email outside of office hours.

If you sleep with your phone in your bed, consider the low levels of radiation that phones emit and how close you are to your phone throughout the day. We don’t have longitudinal studies regarding the effects of cell phones on health.

If you must have your phone in your room because you are on call, you may want to designate a “phone bowl” near your bedroom door. This way you have to get out of bed to answer the phone or check notifications and are minimizing your interaction at night.

 

Get up at the same time, daily

We are creatures of habit. Our bodies fall into a circadian rhythm and this requires consistency. By getting up at the same time every day (yes, even weekends) we are signaling our brains to our routine and are more likely to sleep soundly. The time that is best for you may not be the same time that works for me. Some people naturally stay up later and need to sleep later as a result. Others are early riser, naturally. Tune into what your body does best with and start getting up at a set time. Check out this Article for some more tips on sleeping better.

alarm clock

Getting up at the same time each day also helps our morning routine by making sure that we always have the same amount of time to get things done before leaving the house or starting work. It is easier to be punctual when you have a steady routine.

 

Visualize your best self

Each night before I go to bed, I have a second alarm set. This alarm is not set for me to sleep longer. Instead, when my first alarm goes off, I sit up and meditate for 10 minutes using visualization. For those 10 minutes, I begin by picturing my body in perfect health, then what it feels like to be supremely happy. When I have both of these in my head, I combine them to form my “Best Self”.

Meditation

To be perfectly honest, some days I do not get as far as my “Best Self”. Some days I struggle with what my body feels like or I take a long time to find supreme happiness. No matter what, though, I stop when my alarm goes off. The mental discipline that it takes to consistently meditate is beneficial to our overall happiness. In fact, my husband has often noted that I must have skipped meditation when my fuse is shorter in the morning. Dr. Joe Dispenza has some fabulous information about visualization. Check out his website for more information about his books, speaking engagements, etc or follow him on Facebook.

 

Oil Pulling

coconut-oil-on-wooden-spoon-2090575_1920Oil pulling has been performed for centuries and comes from Aryurvedic medicine. The theory is that you use a tablespoon of coconut oil (or another vegetable oil like grapeseed) in your mouth first thing in the morning (before taking anything by mouth) and swish it as you would mouthwash for 15-20 minutes. This is followed by rinsing, flossing, and brushing as normal. As you perform this, the oil, which is naturally antimicrobial, helps to lower the bacterial and viral load in your mouth and, therefore, your body. While there is not a ton of research that has been done, many people report whiter teeth, fresher breath. I notice that when I oil pull regularly that I have less tartar on my teeth.

A word to the wise, a tablespoon of coconut oil is a lot and it does take a minute or so to fully melt in your mouth. I usually use more like a teaspoon because my mouth isn’t that big! When you are done, spit the used oil into the garbage to avoid clogging your drains. I also had to work up to my 15-20 minutes, my jaw got way too tired at the start.

This technique is hitting the mainstream with even WebMD talking about its benefits.

 

Sun Salutation or stretching/movement

Forward FoldGentle movement in the morning is important. By taking our bodies, which have been still for hours of sleep, through a series of stretches or yoga poses, we can work out the kinks and feel more flexible and healthy throughout the day.

I choose to start my days with a series of yoga sun salutations. This simple series of movements helps me to lengthen my muscles and spine while keeping my focus inward.

Try watching a few sun salutation videos and working with a yoga instructor on your form before doing this on your own. A textbook sun salutation looks like this.

Some other great things to help get you moving in the morning include lying on the floor and gently pulling knees in to chest, rocking side to side or doing range of motion stretches.What types of exercises or stretches are right vary from person to person. Check in with your chiropractor, yoga instructor, massage therapist, or physical therapist for ideas of stretches that are beneficial for your body.

 

Choose tea over coffee

tea-1132529_1920 (1)

I know, you love your coffee. The jolt of caffeine first thing in the morning helps many people face the day. Here is what I propose. If you take your morning into your own hands and work on these steps, you will not need the jolt of caffeine associated with coffee. The caffeine in coffee enters the system quickly and only lasts 5 hours, maximum. Tea, on the other hand, is more time release with caffeine stimulating your system for around 10 hours. Also, when you only drink coffee sporadically, the jolt that you get from it packs more of a punch. I generally only drink coffee on travel days when I am at the airport. These days, that extra push of caffeine is beneficial for me.

For a more detailed description of this, check out this blog.

 

Sit down while you eat breakfast

Standing while we eat is a poor habit to get into. Sitting down we eat more slowly and digest our food better. Breakfast is an important meal, when we take time to appreciate it, it becomes an indispensable part of the morning. You are less likely to search for morning snacks in the office kitchen when you have consciously eaten a healthy breakfast. While I sit down for breakfast, I work on my gratitude journal (see below)

 

GratitudeChoose gratitude

Focusing on gratitude sets a tone for our day and helps to stay more focused. I wrote about this more completely around Thanksgiving. Taking time for gratitude reminds me when things are rough of just how much I have that is good in my life. Bullet journaling is a great way to focus on your gratitude.

 

Hug someone you love/spend time with a pet

Physical contact with another person or creature has innumerable health benefits. This article from Mind Body Green talks about the benefits of 8 hugs per day. At the same time, spending time with your pet (or your neighbor’s) increases your serotonin levels and improves our feelings of well-being.

It wouldn’t hurt to combine these two things, too…

Hug your pets.jpg

These are all things that are part of my daily routine. I work to create a morning of mindfulness that helps me focus and enter my day ready to meet its challenges with a smile. Please let me know how you feel about these ideas and if you have routines of your own that help keep your mornings smooth and happy!

Why you should STOP ignoring your feet!

wanna-see-my-footFeet are important.

They are the foundation that we stand upon.

Your feet contain 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Not to mention nerves and blood vessels!

And yet we abuse them by wearing impractical shoes, restraining them, sitting too much, etc.

Problems with our feet involve more than just foot pain, they can impact the low back and even headaches.

Gait patterns (how we walk) are driven by the foot.

The gait cycle is broken down below, but, in essence the way that we walk is influenced by how we transfer weight from one foot to the other. It is important for us to see that the heel hits the ground first and then the bones of the foot lock together, rolling the toes down and bearing weight.

  • The gait cycle starts with a Heel Strike. The heel of the reference foot is the first place to touch the ground.
  • When the foot is flat, weight can be transferred to the referenced leg. In this part of the gait cycle, think about weight bearing, shock absorption, and moving forward.
  • Mid Stance occurs when the body is balanced and in alignment on the reference foot.
  • Just as the heel of the reference foot leaves the ground, the body is in terminal stance.
  • Toe off occurs when the great toe of the reference foot leaves the ground and begins to swing. This is the beginning of the swing phase of the gait cycle.
  • The swing phase is that part of the gait cycle during which the reference foot is not in contact with the ground and swings in the air. It constitutes about 40% of gait cycle. (wikipedia)

Feet have arches that act as springs to support our movement.

It is important to have your arches analyzed and evaluated- no matter their shape to ensure that your feet support your body. Think about it, have you ever been told you had flat feet or high arches? Take at look at the photos below and compare to your footprints in sand.

arches

Often, high arch feet are very rigid and benefit from self-mobilization. Follow the steps below to mobilize your feet. By stimulating motion in a rigid foot, you can reduce foot pain and improve your biomechanics.

  • Grasp your forefoot in both hands and perform a shearing motion between each of the toes
  • Gently tug on each of your toes
  • Using your whole palm, grasp the heel of your foot and firmly move it back and forth

Flat feet, on the other hand, generally need to be retrained to have more muscular coordination. For this, the “Short Foot” exercises tend to be very helpful.

  • Try placing a kitchen towel on the floor and using your toes to pull it toward you

OR

  • Use your toes to pick up marbles off the floor

feet-619399_1920Either way your feet should be moveable and strong. Think of watching a toddler walk barefoot. You can see their toes grasp the ground, almost like they have suction cups on their tiny toes.

In this photo, see how the toddler is pulling up on their toes? This is especially noticeable when they are first learning to walk and balance.

Perhaps, one of the  most important things to realize is how our shoes influence our feet.

Shoes are orthotics. They support our feet or force them into submission- like in high heels. High heels can do a lot of damage to our bodies- no matter how nicely they make our behinds look in skinny jeans.

feet-1840937_1920Knees: increased pressure by 26% through the knee (knees are also affected posturally as described below)

Calves: tightens/shortens the calf muscles

Achilles (Calf tendon): Shortens and risks tearing when barefoot

“Pump Bump” or Haglund’s Deformity:     bony enlargement on the back of the heel from rubbing/irritation

Posture: whole body mechanics are different with the sacrum rocked forward, increased strain through the knee, increased pressure in the lumbar spine, anterior head carriage, etc.

Ball of foot: pushes weight forward into an area that isn’t designed for it, creating metatarsalgia (the higher the heel, the more pressure through the forefoot)

Hammertoes/Hallux Valgus: from “squishing” the foot into the toebox

What does it all mean?

It is important to go barefoot sometimes! Especially in grass or sand where your muscles in the feet are forced to work.

If you are a runner or walker, get your shoes professionally fitted to be sure that they are correct for your gait and foot type.

For that matter, have your gait assessed to be sure that you are running properly and prevent future injury.

Have your Chiropractor assess your feet to ensure that they move properly and to help you decide if exercises, mobilizations, or orthotics are right for you.